JAMIE LAING may have gained a reputation as a bit of a ladies man, but the Strictly competitor insists the only thing he wants to take home is this year’s coveted glitterball.
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Jamie, 32, is determined to win this year’s contest after he left the 2019 competition with an injury before the series even started.
And he reckons any romance between him and Karen, 38, could wreck the dynamic which has seen them go from underdogs to topping last week’s leaderboard.
But Jamie said: “Anyone who goes into this competition and says they don’t want to go all the way — why are they doing it?
“We have that determination that we want to go all the way and we don’t want anything to ruin it.
“What happens with this curse is that you lose that sort of relationship that you need when it comes to dancing.
“If that crosses over, potentially that they’re not your boss any more, you’re something more than that.
“Karen, even though she’s my buddy and I adore her, I still have to have the sense that she’s my boss.
“She knows how to use me as a tool — I’m a mere tool.”
Of course, there’s also the small matter of his girlfriend of a year, Made In Chelsea beauty Sophie Habboo, 27.
The couple have discussed the curse, but Jamie jokes that being stuck indoors with one person for hours on end is just as unsettling for him, as he doesn’t know what she is getting up to at home.
He said: “I said to my girlfriend, ‘You know where I am, I’m in the studio. What could you be doing?’ But Sophie doesn’t mind.
“She’s the best person I’ve ever met and I’m very lucky she’s my girlfriend.
“When we walk down the street people look at me and think, ‘How has he done that?’ And I just nod at them. Of course I’m punching above my weight.
“When you find someone in your life that you know is beyond better than you in every single way, the last thing you ever want to do is hurt them. To lose her would be the biggest mistake of my life.”
Jamie isn’t blind to Karen’s charms, however, and marvels at the ripped body she has become famous for during her eight years on Strictly.
He said: “She has the most unbelievable six-pack I’ve ever seen. She has abs everywhere, I just can’t believe someone can have that many.
“That’s the problem, when we started dancing with each other, I’d just just look at her and say, ‘God, you look great Karen’, and she’s like, ‘Concentrate, Jamie!’ And I’m like, ‘OK, but you do’.
“She’s an incredible person and in such great shape, but that’s what dancing does. Weirdly enough I’ve even got a slight six-pack poking through now after all the dancing, but nothing like Karen’s.”
Even if he wasn’t spoken for, Jamie reckons Karen wouldn’t contemplate any romance with him.
He said: “I’d be pure Ready Brek for her. She is an independent, dominant woman and would eat most people up.
“Karen is just so determined, so focused, that there would be no chance of that happening. I don’t think she could possibly think of it.”
Instead, all their focus is on training, and it seems to be paying off.
But by last week they more than doubled their points and topped the leader board after a stunning street dance routine.
Jamie said: “The point of Strictly is to go on a journey, that’s what you have to do. It’s about taking someone who’s never danced before and teaching them, then watching their progression.
“That’s what I’m doing and that’s what people are seeing. I think even judge Craig Revel Horwood is warming to us.
“In the beginning all the judges were a bit hesitant about us, but they’re very good at spotting all the hard work that goes into a dance.”
Jamie was born in Oxford and is one of eight siblings in a well-off family — which is down to his great grandfather Sir Alexander Grant, who as boss of McVitie’s, developed its Digestive biscuit in the 19th century.
Jamie went to boarding school at an early age and spent most of his formative years knocking around swanky venues in Chelsea.
But he says the company left the family’s control years ago, and insists he doesn’t even get free biscuits.
His social influencer girlfriend Sophie — aka Habbs — first appeared on Made In Chelsea in 2017.
Like many of the cast members, she isn’t actually from Chelsea but was brought up in Warwickshire.
Jamie is especially determined to prove himself, because last year he had to endure the agony of watching Strictly from home instead of taking part.
He had been forced to leave the show before the series had even started when he damaged a tendon while rehearsing a routine.
Whether or not Jamie pulls off the same feat, he is out to make Karen and Sophie proud, as well as the other woman in his life — his Strictly-mad mother, Penny.
Seeing him in the dance contest is a stark contrast to her witnessing his philandering ways during the nine years he was on Made In Chelsea.
Sophie is beyond better than me in every single way. To lose her would be the biggest mistake of my life
As the joker of the pack of poshos, he swaggered from plush bar to nightclub around the swankiest parts of London, trying to seduce women.
Jamie said: “The great thing about my mum and my family is that they’ve all made mistakes in life. They know that if you tell people not to do their own thing it doesn’t work.
“So they allowed me to make my own mistakes, but she definitely questioned the things I was doing and she probably wasn’t proud.
“For a few years I suppose I was flouncing around on the TV show, probably not behaving the best. But you come out of that, realise your mistakes and change it.”
Jamie may have no great regrets, but he insists his womanising days are over as he looks to the future.
He said: “That’s all behind me now, but I’ve never been ashamed at all.
Karen’s my complete buddy and I adore her but I know she’s the boss. And she knows how to use me…I’m a mere tool
Everyone makes mistakes and does things they’re not proud of.
“The point is to learn from your mistakes. If you don’t, then you would look back and feel ashamed because you haven’t learned from it.
“It’s all about growing up. The difference is that I did most of my growing up on television which gave people the opportunity to question and criticise. But I had the most incredible time.”
And he is finding his Strictly experience just as incredible — apart from the contest’s trickier challenges, such as the tango.
Jamie has struggled with the classic Argentinian dance, which he will perform on tonight’s show.
He said: “Oh my lord, whoever decided to create the tango? It is impossible.
“It is so hard. You have to bend your knee in a weird position, sort of squat, but not squat, stand up, and not look at your partner. What is that about?
“It’s like a method of torture, not a dance. It’s a complete nightmare. But this competition is still amazing.”
- Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC1 tonight at 7.15pm.
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